1st Lt. Tom Emonds
Hotel Company, 1968
3rd. Platoon Commander
Was a forester by education, and worked my way through forestry school with a private forest consultant firm. They paid the bills and I ran tree-planting crews, hired college kids to do timber stand improvement, mist blowing, timber cruising and logging. Quit college between my junior and senior year to spend two years hitch-hiking around the world.
Worked for the Austrian Forest Service then hitch-hiked across Asia. Ended up living with a band of nomads and rode camels across Syria and Iraq. Ended up in my first fights for life in the slave markets of Iraq, and escaped aboard a Pilgrim Ship bound for India. Sold my blood, sold liquor licenses to the Moslems, and turned into an outlaw smuggling packages between India and Ceylon.
Ended up broke and sick. Was a bag of bones, but eventually got out of Asia on a banana boat headed for Australia. Landed in Darwin totally broke and in the country illegally stayed for some nine months. First hitch-hiked across the Aussie outback. Ended up living with hobo types in Sydney, then hitch-hiked up to Queensland, and got a job with their Forest Commission. Fought fires and did some real outback type stuff. Later hitchhiked to Victoria and was an Assistant Park Ranger with their National Parks Authority. Finally the Immigration people got on to me, and gave me two days to leave the country. I ended up in New Zealand and talked my way into another classic job. I was a deer culler. A professional hunter. My only task was to kill as many deer, pigs, Chamois, Thar, and goats as I could. Deer were the most important of the animals hunted. I'd shoot anywhere from two to twelve deer a day. For sport the government hunters would run down wild boars and kill them with only a knife.
It was a great period and I made some life long N.Z.friends who would one day come up to visit me in Alaska when I'd work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and shoot some mighty big moose.
Then one day in the wilds of New Zealand, a helicopter came in to deliver mail, basic foodstuff and ammo. A letter saying I was selected to start smoke jumper training in Oregon was in the mailbag. It was then I had to make a fork in the road type decision. My New Zealand hunting pals told me to stay. My partner said, "Troop you go back to America, you'll end up getting drafted, and have some dumb asshole tell you to go die needlessly in that Vietnam thing". It was 1966. The option I considered other than smoke jumping was to go to New Guinea and hunt crocodiles.
The ice was forming on the edges of the New Zealand Rivers making them very dangerous to cross. So, I ended up in Oregon, as a rookie smokejumper. Then I decided to go back east to finish my last year of forestry school. As spring came the Army sent me my, "come and get your draft physical", letter. At the physical they told me to expect to get drafted on June 7th 67, because I was graduating from college on June 6th. I was all signed up for my second season of smoke jumping. I told them that I didn't mind getting drafted, but could they draft me in September?
Anyway the only way to beat the draft was to join some military service that agreed to let me have a delayed entry date. The marines were the only ones willing to do this. Hence my first good deal. I got to jump the summer of 67 and entered the crotch that fall.
There is no way I would have just gone down and joined the Marine Corps. It took the furry of the sixties, and complete ignorance of anything about Vietnam. It was a blind trust, that the U.S. Government was a good outfit, and must know a hell of a lot more about what they were doing than the college kids with big cars and well-rehearsed opinions.
Well, it ended up being the most interesting of all my life's experiences, even though I really did have a great life. After the war I went back for 25 years of smoke jumping, some 524 smoke jumps, and I built ten log homes.
Most, looking at my lot in life would probably conclude, that I haven’t amounted to a hill of beans. However, I feel like I never did do a days work in my whole damn life. It always was a great adventure, and of all the folks I know I honestly think no one laughed more or ever had more fun with all the strange characters, that I got to hang out with.
I'm presently married to a young South East Asian lady, 30 years younger than myself. We have a great little boy; 18 months old. I guess this is my favorite of all times in life. I thank her each and every day for marrying me, and she is such a sweetheart. She appreciates everything, and we laugh hard every day. In four years of marriage, not one bad day yet.
As far as Platoon Commanders go: Lt. Wayne Halland was the head of the 2nd Platoon when I got there. Lt. C.V. Taylor was the Skipper. Both those guys were good and the troops really respected and liked them. Wayne Halland was a little rock of a guy, tough as a nail and really a marine's marine.
Lt. Encinata was the Plt. Cmdr. of the 3rd herd before I got there. The troops used to tell me how they tried several times to frag him. They really didn't tell me this for quite some time, so I don't think they were trying to tell me a big story or lay out warnings for anything or me like that. It was always a funny story, and the whole platoon roared when they'd tell me the stories. He was gone before I got there, so I really would have liked to meet him, but never did.
S/Sgt. Millsap was my Plt. Sgt. and he was the Plt. Cmdr. just before I showed up. He was certainly the real leader of the Platoon. Sort of a tough, but look out for the guys, old mother hen type. I was just out of the Basic School and was certainly nothing to write home about. In fact I graduated either 3ed or 9th from the bottom of a class of some 300. So I was real doubtful. S/Sgt Millsap was a great molder of officers. For whatever reason he assumed I must have been smart or was at least what the Marine Corps had screened to be an Officer, and he treated me as an officer. I liked and respected him and we sort of ran the platoon together. The troops liked the way we were together, and I think that everyone felt comfortable. It was a very easy on me type situation.
When Sgt. Millsap left, I remember I really felt lonely, and worried a bit about things for a while. But!!! Tom Millsap had trained me well and I actually felt like an officer after two months with him. After a month or so I got another great Plt. Sgt.. S/Sgt. Joe Dean McKnight. He became a very, very good friend of mine and the Platoon was a very at home place to be. He eventually made Sgt. Major.
After Wayne Halland left Lt. Phil Messer took over the 2ed Platoon. Lt. Sam Meale had the 1st. Plt. What few men realized is that both Sam and Phil were All State basketball players during their high school days. Both great, great friends of mine who I treasured each minute with.
When Phil Messer got wounded, Lt. Doug Bergeron took over the 2ed Plt. Lt. Bergeron was killed fairly quickly. A Corporal Watkins took over the 2ed Plt., and I must say he handled that Platoon as well, if not better than any officer I ever met. I took him aside one time and literally begged him to put in for the officer program. If anyone ever should have been an officer it certainly should have been him. Phil Messer came back and took over the 2nd. Plt. after he healed up from his wounds.
Lt. Mike Brock took over the 3rd herd after I left. Then a Lt. Gardener fairly soon after that.
Phil Messer became a Marine Jet Pilot after Vietnam, then stayed in the Reserves, and ended up A full Bird. Mike Brock stayed in and was a Lt. Col about ten years ago, and may have made full bird.
Sam Meale, as you know has had a very successful career with the DEA. When I had returned to be a smokejumper some fed came and asked for a reference for Sam. He was trying to get on with the Alcohol, Tobacco, and firearms folks in 1970. Easy to see how that guy was so successful. He was just smooth and a darned straight shooter.
1st Lt. Brock
Hotel Company, 1968
3rd. Platoon Commander
Michael Van Brock was born to Steven Cleve and Gladys Opel Brock on June 16, 1944 in Idabel, Oklahoma. His parents divorced in 1947. His father took him from his mother and fled to Lakeview, Oregon where he stayed for two years. His mother came to Lakeview and filed a custody suit. The judge determined that his parents would have dual custody of Michael, his mother having custody during the school year and his father in the summer.
Michael attended grade school in Oklahoma and middle school in Dallas, Texas. Michael attended high school in Lakeview, graduating in 1962. He attended Southern Oregon College and graduated in 1967. After graduation the worked in Alaska on a fish processing boat and part time on a scrimp trawler.
He returned to the “lower 48” after five months and moved from Lakeview to Sausalito, California. In March on 1968 he applied to be a Marine Corps officer. He attended Officer Candidate School, The Basic School finishing in November 1968. He married the former Dianne Fieguth November 23 and left for Vietnam in December where he was assigned as a platoon commander Company H, 2Bn, 1st Marines. After his promotion to 1st Lieutenant in July he was assigned as XO of H&S Co, 2nd Bn. Later he was transferred to H&S Co. Sup Bn, 3rd FSR
After his tour in Westpac he was transferred to Camp Jejune, North Carolina where he was the Weapons Platoon commander, Executive Officer, and Company Commander. His next duty assignment was as the Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment on the USS Proteus (AS-19) a sub tender home ported in Guam.
Mike was transferred to Camp Pendleton, California in 1974 and was assigned as the Intelligence Officer for the 7th Marine Regiment. His next assignment was the Defense Intelligence College (DIC) in Washington, D.C. Upon completion of the DIC Mike was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) where he worked in the Political/Military Affairs’ Branch. While there Mike was selected to be a briefer at the Canada, UK,US (CANUKUS) Conference and also traveled to the Warsaw Pact countries as part of his duties. Furthermore, he represented DIA on National Intelligence Estimates on matters regarding the Polish crisis.
His next assignment was with the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade where he was the G-2. After a year in Okinawa, Japan he was selected to work at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. where he was the Marine Corps representative for preparing National Intelligence Estimates for Soviet Warsaw Pact.
His next assignment was as a student at the Defense Management College. Upon graduating he worked as a research, development and acquisition Program Manager for intelligence systems. After his tour as a PM he was transferred to Camp Pendleton where he was became the Commanding Officer, Surveillance Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group (SRIG). Two weeks after taking command the SRIG was deployed to Saudi Arabia for operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
Following DS/DS he was assigned as the G-2 (Intelligence Officer) for I Marine Expeditionary Force. There he was selected to be the Joint Intelligence Officer for the Rodney King Riots and later the J-2 for Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.
He retired in 1994 as a Full Colonel. and moved his family to Bend, Oregon where he was the Senior Naval Science Instructor for a NJROTC program at Mountain View High School. During his eleven years as the SNSI the unit earned Honor Unit four times and Distinguished Honor Unit five times. He resigned in 2005 and now serves on two non-profit organizations that help service personnel assimilate to the civilian world after discharge.
Mike and Dianne have been married 51 years. They have two children, Lindsey who works for a local hospital and Casey who is a LtCol in the Marine Corps serving in Marine Special Operations. He and his family are presently in Germany serving in Africa Command. He slated to become a Raider Battalion Commander this summer.